My jaw dropped to the floor when I saw this Suzuki Alto CA71 with a rotating driver seat. It didn’t drop to the floor because it is weird or odd (yet it is!), but actually because the ad suggests it as a sexist thing! How can a swiveling chair be a sexist thing? Are we talking pervert-levers here? No we are not! Let me explain why…
Which Suzuki Alto is which
The second generation Suzuki Alto was, just like the first generation, a two door version of the Suzuki Fronte. In this second generation a huge list of trim levels were available, ranging from the simple basic to the Alto Works RS-R. I’m not going to name all of them, but the most important ones today are the Juna, Regina and Femina. As the names suggest, these are the trim levels that were aimed towards female drivers. This doesn’t mean they all feature this rotating driver seat though.
What is this rotating driver seat then?
Now let’s examine the magazine advertisement:
What do we see? We see the interior of a Suzuki Alto and/or Fronte. The front driver seat has been rotated towards where normally the door of the car would have been. A rough translation of the advertisement headline is as following: Japan’s first rotating driver’s seat for easy entry and exit. I’ll drive deeper into the translations of the other bits and pieces later on.
Easy entry and exit doesn’t sound too sexists, right? No it doesn’t. However, I’m not only talking about the rotating driver seat in the pamphlet I put up here, but also the Suzuki Alto advertisements from the same model and era.
Japanese Suzuki Alto advertisements
The Japanese Suzuki Alto advertisements are an interesting bunch. They target different audiences for the same car, hence they use the acress Asami Kobayashi (小林麻美) for the female audience. One such advertisement is this one:
You can see in this video the rotating driver seat in action. The rotating driver seat feels like Suzuki is saying “women have difficulty entering a car and we solved it!”. On a side node, the Suzuki Alto Femina was also called the Asami Special. The other adverts like the Alto Works and Alto Twin Cam RS were not by her and featured a much more male tone.
So is this the only advert featuring the rotating driver seat? No, there actually were a couple more: the Alto Street and a more generic Alto advertisement featured it.
Suzuki Alto Street
Another Suzuki Alto ad is this Alto Street ad where Asami Kobayashi pretends to be a photographer and at 0:13 the rotating driver seat is actually used as a base to sit and make photos from:
So yeah it could be used for a different purpose…
Suzuki Alto Juna
So what about the Suzuki Alto Juna? It did feature the rotating driver seat, but strangely enough in all Suzuki Alto Juna advertisements it is absent.
The 1986 Alto Juna ad:
The 1987 Alto Juna ad:
The Alto Juna Special Edition:
Strangely enough none of the Suzuki Alto Juna in the ads above doesn’t feature it, but the Japanese Wikipedia page says it does!
Ordinary Suzuki Alto ad
Also the ordinary Suzuki Alto CA71 isn’t safe from the rotating driver seat:
No swiveling driver seat
However, as I mentioned earlier, not all Suzuki Altos that were targeted towards female drivers feature the swiveling driver seat. From the pamphlet I understood it was an option on the base model. Judging from the ads it was probably standard on the Alto Femina, Alto Juna and Alto Street. At first I assumed it featured as standard on all specially (women) targeted models, but this wasn’t the case as the Alto Regina ad below shows you!
The Suzuki Alto Regina features a special bench seat to allow the creation of a large two person bed inside the Alto (why would you need that for?). Naturally it doesn’t feature the swiveling driver seat either. As the Regina comes with a bench seat it also features a column operated 2 speed automatic to make room for the bench.
No more Boleros
Finally I also have a Suzuki Alto Femina ad that is totally unrelated to the swivel seat. However, I would still like to share it:
The music in this ad is Love is in your eyes performed by the Dutch singer Gerard Joling, which is another connection for me as a fellow Dutchman
Why is this rotating driver seat sexist?
Let’s get into the translation of the pamphlet. I found a source with a Suzuki Alto pamphlet featuring the swiveling driver seat. This pamphlet clears up a couple of things and at the same time it doesn’t and brings up even more questions. For instance:
日本初 、 乗り降りのラクな回転ドライバーズシート – Japan’s first rotating driver’s seat for easy getting on and off
So this is the first Japanese car to feature this type of seat.
運転席がそのまま60度右に回転。スマートでラクな乗降ができます。ヒューマン設計から生まれた、日本初の装備です (L.C タイプ) *国産車(特殊車は除く) – The driver’s seat rotates 60 degrees to the right. You can get on and off smartly and easily. Japan’s first equipment born from human design (L.C type) * Domestic cars (excluding special cars)
女っぽく、人間ぼく。ヒューマンなヒューマンなニューアルト新登場。- I’m feminine and human. Introducing the new human human Alto.
ファッショナブルなボディライン。- Fashionable body line.
すみずみまて生かされた女性中心のヒューマン設計。- A female-centered human design that makes the most of every corner.
人間どうしの気分てつきあえるクルマてす。- A car that makes you feel like you are humans.
What do I make of it?
So what do I make of all this? The rotating seat was created with the intention to serve female drivers alone. The pamphlet simply doesn’t mention it was created with the male body in mind. No, it specifically mentions it was created with the female body in mind. But why? Men could also profit from a rotating driver seat! Especially older men would love to get a bit more assistance getting in and out of a car.
So if it was created with the female body in mind, why was it done this way? Are women for some reason physically less able to get in and out of a car? From the human body’s perspective they are not. So why then? Then there must be an external factor why they can’t… (I know you all are shouting the answer already…)
The only viable answer I could come up with is dresses and skirts. Men (at least most of them) don’t wear dresses or skirts. If you are male, imagine you enter a car. One foot first into the footwell, then you move your ass into the seat and then your second leg will follow into the footwell. Now imagine what will happen to your legs when you wear a skirt. In that moment between moving your ass into the seat and moving your second leg, there will be a (brief) moment when your legs are spread. Anyone passing by might be able to catch a glimpse of what’s under that dress or skirt. Yes indeed: this rotating driver seat is to allow female drivers to enter a car in dignity! If only the Mercedes Benz SLR featured one, it would have saved Britney from some incident.